The Rangitāiki Solar Farm site is located on a 1,022-hectare farm near Taopi. Nova Energy employees are pictured visiting.
A dairy farm will be transformed into the largest solar power plant in New Zealand.
Supplier approval has been given for the 400-megawatt solar power plant near Taupo, which, once completed, will provide enough electricity for nearly 100,000 homes.
In May this year, Todd Generation, affiliate of Nova Energy, is applying for approval To convert an existing 1,022-hectare dairy farm, about 35 kilometers east of Taupo on State Highway 5, into a solar farm.
The proposed solar farm, opposite Rangitāiki Tavern, will include the installation of approximately 900,000 ground-mounted solar panels, along with the equipment needed to send power to the national grid.
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This will be done in three phases, phasing out dairy farm operations as work progresses, and over five years.
The site currently operates around 2,600 head of cattle and various agricultural infrastructure including milking pens and effluent management systems.
There are nine existing dwellings used for housing agricultural workers on the land.
Nova Energy CEO Babu Bahiratan said the historic decision was a positive step towards expanding Nova’s renewable energy portfolio, and an important step towards New Zealand achieving its climate change goals and Emission reduction Objectives.
Nova Energy made the move to solar for the first time in 2021 after opening 2.1MW Capone Solar Power Plant in south Taranaki.
“With the approval of 400MW, the proposed Rangitāiki solar farm is now the largest grid-connected solar project in New Zealand.
“Our focus is now on evaluating the development path of the project,” Bahiratan said.
This includes partnering with an experienced contractor to help build a high-quality power plant and deal with the impact of the current economic climate on exchange rates, resource availability and the supply chain.
According to the final investment decisions, the first phase of the solar farm in Rangitāiki proposes to build and connect up to 150 megawatts of capacity to the national grid in the next two years.
Bahiratan said the project will create hundreds of local jobs during construction and valuable training opportunities in the booming solar energy sector.
In his decision, Independent Resource Management Law Commissioner William (Bill) Wasley said four submissions had been received regarding the proposal – one for support, two for neutral and one against.
Federated Farmers New Zealand said it was concerned about the loss of productive farmland in the area, and that it could have negative economic, social and cultural impacts on rural residents.
She also expressed concern about the solar panels’ ability to leach toxins into groundwater supplies, their longevity, and their recyclability.
However, the Federal Farmers’ Federation said it supports renewable electricity generation and the improvement of regional energy supplies.
Nova Energy said its panels are not expected to leach chemicals, and the recycling rate of solar panels is expected to be 95%, while the supporting structures and copper cables can be fully recycled.
“However, the proposal has significant positive implications since it is a renewable energy proposal that generates electricity from a solar resource and also includes the retirement of dairy farm activity and benefits derived from restoring and regenerating riverine habitats,” Wasley said in his decision.